Man Number Seven
Gurdjieff said, of man number seven:
Man number seven means a man who has reached the full development possible to man and who possesses everything a man can possess, that is, will, consciousness, permanent and unchangeable I, individuality, immortality, and many other properties which, in our blindness and ignorance, we ascribe to ourselves. It is only when to a certain extent we understand man number seven and his properties that we can under stand the gradual stages through which we can approach him, that is, understand the process of development possible for us. —Gurdjieff, ibid, p. 71.
Swedenborg’s remarks are as follows:
A heavenly person is the seventh day. And since the Lord worked through six days, that individual is called his work. Conflict then comes to an end, as a result of which the Lord is said to rest from all his work. This is why the seventh day was consecrated and named “Sabbath,” from [a Hebrew word for] rest. In the process the human being has been made, formed, and created, as the words themselves clearly indicate.
Lack of information is another reason why these secrets—that a person of heavenly character is the seventh day, that this explains the consecration of the seventh day, and that it was named “Sabbath” for the idea of rest—have continued to lie hidden. No one knows what a heavenly person is, and few what a spiritual person is. Inevitably, in their ignorance, people have considered a spiritual person the same as a heavenly one, when a rather large difference separates the two. —Emmanuel Swedenborg, ibid, §85.
In Journey to the Lord of Power, Ibn Arabi presents the reader with a rather complex ascension narrative for the different levels of heaven which bears a relationship to the comments on man number seven. Unlike Swedenborg and Gurdjieff, he did not—in this book, at least—specifically name man number seven – or, as Swedenborg refers to him, heavenly man — as an aim or result of inner development.
Swedenborg’s citation of the seventh day come up a heavenly person, as the aim of spiritual regeneration shares a clear identity with Gurdjieff’s man number seven. Following on this, we can see where Swedenborg’s Secrets of Heaven provides a great deal of important information on Gurdjieff’s esoteric heritage which cannot be found in any of the Gurdjieff literature. The contention that Gurdjieff was not familiar with Swedenborg’s extensive esoteric writings seems, in the face of the evidence, staggering; as with any assertion that the two do not share a common source, from what Gurdjieff referred to as “influences C.”
Gurdjieff, after all, bragged about his voracious spiritual reading, and it would have taken a willful act of omission for anyone reading in the esoteric circles of his era to avoid Swedenborg. That being said, Gurdjieff mentions reading Blavatsky – who he says he dismissed as a fraud — but says nothing whatsoever about Swedenborg, at least so far as I know. Swedenborg’s stature, which exceeded that of Blavatsky.
Given the consonance of ideas between the two systems, in my opinion, it behooves both academics and the Gurdjieff community at large to conduct more extensive investigations into the relationships here, in order to shed light on the peculiar vacuum of information that currently exists.
Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.